YORK — A few years ago, my father (who has since passed) called me about a ring he’d found somewhere in Somersworth, New Hampshire. At the time I was concentrating on a class of labs, and I must admit I wasn’t paying much attention to the conversation. My father was concerned about how he could get the ring back to the rightful owner. My first thought was: Why would anyone care?

My father described the ring as being an old, gold class ring dating to 1934. He told me it was very small and thus had to be a woman’s ring.

It was all gold, simply molded to show off the name of the school, Somersworth High School, and it included the date of graduation. It was in impeccable shape, as though it had rarely been worn or had been lost for a very long time.

Within minutes, both my interest and imagination started to spark. The pile of laboratory reports I had in front of me became unimportant, because any opportunity to massage my imagination had to be taken seriously.

The ring had something else special about it: Inside the band were the initials “CB.” Because the ring was over 70 years old, it was quite remarkable that the initials still appeared on the inside of the band.

The mysterious owner of the ring must have been excited that it was her time to graduate from high school and start her new life. She must have first put the ring on her finger during the early fall months of 1933. How proud she must have been.

I imagine her in an auditorium where all the seniors were asked to gather because their class rings had finally arrived. She must have been part of a small circle of friends who giggled in anticipation. They were looking forward to putting the rings on their fingers and then running throughout the auditorium to make sure that all who were there saw what they’d been working on for well over a decade.

Some probably walked to the corner of the room and raised their hands toward the light in order to admire what they had earned. Today this tradition has considerably weakened, possibly because the seniors either do not see the importance of the ring or can’t afford the expense.

I imagine how proud her parents were. Maybe she was the first in the family ever to graduate from high school. Maybe she was part of a family of immigrants who decided to settle in Somersworth because of the opportunities offered by the many shoe factories that were there then.

Or maybe she came from a family who had called Somersworth their home for generations. Whatever she was part of, she was now also part of a group of elite individuals who had attained scholastic success.

Maybe there was a boyfriend in the mix of her story and my imagination. “CB” may not have run to all her friends to show off her new acquisition. She may have run to that very special boy.

But the ring was lost, and it must have been lost soon because there was literally no wear on the ring. What happened to make this very special token become not so special?

If a boyfriend were part of the history of the ring, maybe she gave it to him to celebrate their love for each other, with the boy giving his to “CB.” But if, like many young people, they had a tumultuous relationship, with arguments precipitated by things they soon forgot, his insensitivity may have made her never want to see the ring again.

If a boyfriend had not been part of the story, “CB” may have cherished the ring so much that she put it away, afraid it might get lost or simply get worn out. If she went to college or started a family, “CB” may have forgotten what the ring meant and put it someplace that time made her forget.

Then again, maybe “CB” never existed. The ring company may have made a mistake and produced a ring not connected with any initials of any of the students who lived during those changing times.

“Are you still there?” My father wondered if I was still on the phone because for the past few seconds, I had been silent thinking about the history of the ring.

I told him I was and then advised how he could try to find the rightful owner of the ring. Up to this time, no owner has been found.

There is a good possibility that “CB” may no longer be alive, but if she is, I would love to talk with her.

 


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